AYF Youth Corps - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
The AYF Youth Corps program has a long and distinguished story that began in 1994, following the Bishkek protocol that set up a ceasefire in Artsakh. The purpose was to take direct aid to the newly liberated villages and help repair the damage of years of war. The program took young volunteers from abroad to rural regions to do rebuilding work hand-in-hand with locals…brick by brick. The generation of AYF members that had the vision and foresight to create the Youth Corps program in 1994 understood the need to overcome the Iron Curtain and tangibly reconnect with our homeland.
Years later, the program was completely renovated with a renewed purpose. In 2008, Youth Corps established its first day camp in Gyumri. The purpose was to give kids in Armenia a fun, educational, and exciting summer, and at the same time introduce diasporan youth to more than just a superficial picture of Armenia. The new concept has since grown to 7 cities, bringing dozens of volunteers to Armenia each summer, interacting with thousands of kids.
Among those who led the way in the establishment of Youth Corps 2.0 were Sosé Thomassian & Allen Yekikian. Sosé & Allen wanted to engage young diasporans in Armenia’s future development, but first wanted them to understand Armenia’s realities. They envisioned having young people from the diaspora teach and learn from youngsters in different regions of Armenia and Artsakh in order to build ties, build understanding and truly build a bridge home.
Sosé served as the Chairperson of the Youth Corps committee for several years beginning in 2008, and Allen served as the Youth Corps group leader in 2010. The couple continued to be involved in the planning of the program even after they moved to Armenia earlier this year. They Skyped into meetings each week, provided logistical support on the ground in Yerevan, and were ready to welcome our 2013 group with open arms. They are sadly unable to greet this year’s group at Zvartnots because their lives were tragically cut short following a car accident on May 10th.
Sosé & Allen, you are not here, but your spirit remains with us. So, with your spirit we continue.
With your spirit that views Armenia as a home to be explored, rather than a tourist destination, we continue.
With your spirit that sees opportunity where others see despair, we continue.
With your spirit that believes in connecting young people from the diaspora to young people in Armenia, we continue.
With your spirit that believes in thoughtful solutions, rather than blind criticism, we continue.
With your spirit that that knows that real results come from real effort, we continue.
With your spirit that has love for your people and love for your country, we continue.
You put your hearts in this program because you believe in our nation’s future. Thank you for your guidance and we promise you our generation will continue.
AYF Youth Corps 2013…and on